What is Google Reader and why should you use it?
Google Reader is a free, Web-based reader for RSS feeds. You can find feeds on nearly every Web site. RSS feeds offer a simplified view of Web content down to just text, pictures and videos--minus the site's style and formatting, which can sometimes hinder or befuddle casual reading.
Google reader lets you subscribe to these feeds as easily as typing them into your browser's address bar, and lets you read them like you're browsing through e-mail. There are many online RSS readers available, but Google is one of the best. It's easy to get a grip on Google Reader basics, but there are several tips and tricks that can make it extremely productive.
Setup: Finding RSS Feeds
As mentioned earlier, nearly every site has an RSS feed, and you can usually find it by scrolling around and hunting for the little RSS logo (a little orange box with three white waves). What makes Google Reader particularly useful is that it can take any old Web site URL and find the RSS feed on its own. If you don't quite remember the name of the site, or the exact URL, Google Reader has a built in directory you can search by keyword. There's also a neat feature called "bundles" that has over a dozen themed groups of preselected feeds you can subscribe to at once. Adding one of these bundles organizes the newly subscribed feeds into a handy folder.
Once you get going with Google Reader, you'll likely have a bunch of sites that need organizing into groups. The easiest tool to handle this is folders. To begin this process, just click on manage subscriptions in the lower left-hand corner of Google Reader's main page. This will take you to an options menu where you can create and delete folders and feeds, as well as quickly categorize the feeds you have into folders.
To change or make a new folder, there's a drop-down menu on the far right side of each feed. To make a new folder, click on it, and pick the New Folder option. After naming it, the feed you clicked on in the first place will automatically be sorted into this folder. Once you've created a folder, you can quickly add several feeds by clicking the drop-down button on the far right to change folders.
Seasoned Gmail users might be familiar with "starring" and labeling, Google's simplified version of managing feeds and stories instead of folders. Google Reader is no different, letting you star or tag posts with labels for quick sorting later on. There are two ways to star a story--either click on the star icon on the top left of a story, or add star option on the bottom left. To read through just starred items, pick the starred items feed on the top left menu.
Labeling is a slightly more complicated affair, but a powerful tool to swap through genres of feeds with just a few keystrokes. Like stars, you can tag any feed item on the fly by clicking the edit tags button on the lower right hand side of the story. You'll notice right away the story has automatically been tagged with its parent folder. To actually search through tags, you'll have to use a simple keyboard shortcut by pressing G followed by T. This will pull up an overlay that lets you sort through stories by tag using your keyboard arrows. We'll get into more depth on keyboard shortcuts in the advanced tidbits section below.
Continue reading to learn how to read and share feeds, along with some advanced tidbits for taking your reading to the next level.